August 25, 2013

A Day with a Sensory Child

Hello, my name is Laurke and I have a son with SPD.  Its mild, and most people have no idea that he is anything other than normal.  But I know!
On bad days, he looks like this. :(
I had never heard of sensory processing disorder (aka sensory integration disorder) until about 18 months ago.  I always knew he was on the sensitive side (see here), but thought he would just outgrow it.  Instead, homeschooling gave me the opportunity to see what little things set him off, and how easily frustrated and anxious he would get.  Being a foster parent, I saw how kids younger than he could balance on bikes, tie shoes and more.  He can do these things now, thanks to Minds in Motion and Occupational Therapy, plus a bit of influence from the other boys.

So what does our typical day look like?  If its a good day, probably much like yours.  But on those off days, it goes something likes this.  Here is the checklist I created in Evernote and have on the mirror in his room, and at my command station.  What I added for this blog post is italicized.  (Feel free to adapt this and use it in your own home.)
Routine is EXTREMELY important to sensory kids.  Keep a schedule.  Throughout the day, please LIMIT TV and  electronic time and encourage lots of active play.

Wake-up, "Spirit of the Forest" music playing (recommended by OT)
7:00 Thera-pressure (brushing/joint compressions)
7:05 Therapeutic listening (headphones or other) (special headphones like in the above picture)
Get dressed, make bed
Oral motor protocol
7:15 Breakfast at table
Brush teeth, chores
Creative play
8:30 Thera-pressure (1.5-2 hours after first session)
Heavy work (riding bike, swinging)
9:00 School work
10:00 Thera-pressure
Heavy work (trampoline, climbing)
10:30 Seat work
11:30 Thera-pressure
Oral motor protocol
Lunch  (this part of the schedule needs tweaking, since it takes him about 30 minutes to decide what he wants to eat and fix it.  However, we have been done with school work before 2, so its good enough!)
School work 
12:30 Rest/play while therapeutic listening
1:00 Thera-pressure
Finish up school work
2:00 Oral motor protocol
Snack & free time
2:30 Thera-pressure
Free time - screen time allowed
4:00 Thera-pressure
5:30 Thera-pressure
Oral motor protocol
7:00 Thera-pressure
Screen time allowed until 1 hour before sleep time
7:30 Shower, brush teeth 
8:00 Read stories
8:30 Thera-pressure.  Lights-out

Therapressure - keep brush horizontal to ground - turn arms/legs, not brush.  Don't brush over clothes.  Don't brush stomach.  Apply firm, consistent pressure.

Follow with joint compressions - Shoulders, elbows, wrists x10 quick pushes.  Fingers x3.  Hips, knees, ankles x10.  Spine (hands on shoulders) x10 fast or x3 slow.  Chest (hands on sternum and back) x3

Oral motor protocol - gently swipe roof of mouth (right, left, right) with finger.  Open mouth midway and gently press down on bottom teeth x10.
C-swipes x3 cycles - start with fingertip on gums above front teeth, around gum line, down cheek, and halfway across bottom, like a "c".
Take finger on inside of cheek, thumb on outside.  Gently squeeze cheek between fingers and pull forwards, sliding fingers across muscles in cheeks.  3x each side.

I'm thankful that on recent days we haven't had to do the brushing (therapressure) but he does enjoy it.  I usually forget to remind him of the oral motor protocol, too, but we are both works in progress!  The protocol is supposed to help desensitize his mouth so it is easier for him to try new foods, and we have seen improvement in that area, although slow.

Here are some of our sensory tools.  In this white basket are dry erase markers and crayons for using on the white board, which he prefers over paper (too scratchy).  Pencils and pencil sharpeners for when paper is required.  He likes the mechanical pencil with the special finger grip, and sometimes will use the wristband to wipe sweaty hands on.

School basket
In the sensory box, which moves around the house, are things to keep his hands busy, eyes focused and mouth occupied.  Balloons and the duck whistle help him breathe deeply.  The wonder wand is calming.  Then there are some chewy things in there as well.
Sensory toys
 The wonderful snack tray.  I really think this has helped more than anything.  Although it irritates my overly-sensitive self to hear him sucking and chewing all day long, it helps him focus and stay calm.  We include a couple of crunchy things, chewy, and sour items.  This tray has pretzels, peanuts, Lemonheads, fruit roll-up, ice (pellet ice is best), suckers, and bubble gum.  He rarely eats the suckers or hard candy, except for Lemonheads.  Lemon is very alerting...we also put lemon essential oil into our water everyday.
Oral motor tray (aka snack tray...his favorite part!)
 Finally, varying where he can go during school really helps.  We start at the dining table, and go to the playroom for the kid-sized table for copy work and maybe math, use the computer for typing, some math, and Spanish, then to the couch or front porch for read-alouds.  See more of where we do school.
Sitting on an exercise ball helps focus and builds core strength
Resources for SPD:
Your local pediatrician can recommend/refer to an OT for evaluation.  You will likely have to ask for this; once I did, the rest was easy.
Sensory Smarts
A Sensory Life (formerly Understanding SPD)
Pinterest - SPD and OT


  1. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your post. My 8 yr old son has mild SPD too - mainly vestibular and proprioceptive. He does OT once a week and in a few weeks is starting with a psychologist to help with his social skills.
    I love your baskets of sensory goodies - such a great idea. I'd never thought of balloon blowing - I'm definitely going to use it!
    Off to check out your Pinterest boards.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hope the ideas help!! You can never have too many, because the same ones don't work for different kids :) We did OT weekly since April but have dropped to every 2 weeks because he's doing so great. I think therapeutic listening really has an affect, as do lots of exercise breaks!

  2. Great schedule. My 11 1/2 year old daughter has SPD and just graduated from therapy earlier this month. We definitely keep a schedule here too. She's always needed it, even when in parochial school. Her teachers commented on it often.

    The therapressure (we call it just brushing ) is so helpful. I keep the special brush at my desk ready for use. My daughter isn't fond the joint compressions, she actually is very resistant to them. However, she loves her BodySox. Her therapist used it during therapy sessions with her and we bought one for home. So great because she can wear it and get the prop input she needs and still do other tasks. She even jumps around in it.

    1. Yeah for Body sox! We bought Skweezrs (custom lycra) from an etsy shop, both the body sock and the bed sheet, which he loves.

  3. As a fellow homeschool mom, I really enjoyed reading this! We use sensory breaks (brushing and massage) and a few sensory boxes too. Both really helpful to keep them happy and focused on learning!


I love to hear from you! Feel free to link to your own blog or Pinterest page- I'll check it out!